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Stefanie Keller, certified financial planner (CFP) and chief executive officer (CEO) of Stellar Wealth and Tax Solutions, has a packed three-hour event planned for clients at the end of November.
Ms. Keller’s annual client event at the St. Boniface Golf Club in Winnipeg will be a mix of a holiday cocktail party and educational sessions on the state of the market as well as on tax and retirement planning strategies and products.
She says the aim of the event is to gather and celebrate the season, but also to provide education that assuages clients’ financial concerns after a difficult year.
“People are under a lot of stress, whether they’re overt or quiet about it. It’s an undercurrent everywhere,” she says. “Let’s acknowledge where we are and that these undercurrents exist, but also be grateful and look at the future with optimism.”
Amid a challenging macroeconomic climate of decades-high interest rates, a higher cost of living and plenty of stock market volatility that has put pocketbook issues front and centre for many Canadians, some advisors say they are doubling down on client appreciation events this year.
“For me as an advisor, it’s imperative to be in contact and keep clients informed. … Having a client event is the best way because it’s face-to-face, you can see them all together and deliver that peace of mind that everything is okay,” says Debbie Adams, senior wealth advisor and CFP with Adams Wealth Management at Wellington-Altus Private Wealth Inc. in Toronto.
“In any environment, it’s important, but especially in this one.”
Creating confidence for clients
Matt Evans, president and CEO at CWB Wealth Management Ltd. in Edmonton, says the firm has maintained its investments in client appreciation events after the amalgamation of five financial services firms under the CWB banner in October 2022.
“It’s the perfect time for it,” he says. “It’s important to stay visible and accessible, and make clients feel confident they’re dealing with a provider that isn’t going anywhere.”
Two of CWB’s legacy firms used to host speakers on a broad spectrum of topics, particularly overall wellness, at their client appreciation events, while one of the firms focused primarily on financial and investing content.
CWB’s current approach is to provide programming on holistic well-being. At the firm’s recent series of client appreciation events in the five cities in which it operates, it hosted a public speaker to speak about the five habits that lead to connection and stronger relationships. Last year, the firm’s speaker spoke about the science of happiness.
Mr. Evans says the goal of the events was to provide clients with an opportunity to learn as well as to socialize and deepen ties with advisors and other clients. CWB “invested a lot” to ensure the events’ production value was high, the premises were “very intimate and unique locations” so the firm’s high-net-worth clients were able to enjoy an experience that felt special and luxurious.
“Our clients rely on us for enrichment and opportunities to learn,” he says. “They hire us because we’re experts in certain things, but count on us to bring extra value to them, and that’s what these events represent.”
Being flexible and providing virtual options
Ms. Adams is hosting a holiday party at a local restaurant at the end of November with a full menu for clients to enjoy, although they can drop in at any time in the evening. She says she’s using the party partly as an opportunity to introduce her clients to Wellington-Altus management and her new staff members, given her recent switch from a bank-owned firm. It’s also an opportunity for clients to get to know each other and develop new social ties.
After hosting virtual or hybrid client appreciation events during the pandemic, advisors say they’re now putting a focus on meaningful in-person experiences.
“The pandemic really revealed that clients … are comfortable engaging with virtual channels, and more frequently we’re using that channel for delivering our core services,” Mr. Evans says.
“But, if anything, it’s made the opportunity to do something special in person that much more important.”
Over the past few years, Ms. Keller says she held her appreciation events virtually. While in the previous two years, she surveyed clients to see whether they would be open to a formal in-person gathering, she says there was very little interest given worries around COVID-19.
This year, she says she opted to hold the gathering in person now that social activities have returned to normal but is adding a virtual component for clients who can’t make it or are still uncomfortable with in-person gatherings. She also notes she has clients in multiple locations who wouldn’t fly into Winnipeg for the event.
Ms. Keller hosted holiday cocktail parties for clients before the pandemic, but she says she’s investing more in educational components now as the pandemic has led many people to have a higher bar for going to in-person events.
“It’s important that there’s an IQ side of it, not just EQ,” she says. “You need to have more substance now.”
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